If there’s one aspect that defines the sales conversation in recent years, it is the rising level of buyer expectations. It’s not only what the vendors sell, but how they sell that marks the key difference between wins and losses. Buyers expect sales reps to have an intimate knowledge of their industry, understand their pain points, and guide them through the evaluation process with relevant and timely information. This is where sharing high value content at the right time plays a critical role.
As we noted in an earlier article (“10 essential steps to developing a content strategy for enabling sales”)1, a well-executed content strategy for enabling sales can help companies see their win rates go up by as high as 27%! However, a poorly executed one can result in a lower than average win rate.
Here are 7 pitfalls that marketers need to avoid while creating content for sales enablement.
1) Focusing on the product and not the customer:
The primary goal of sales content is to demonstrate that the vendor’s solution can help buyer organizations solve key business problems. This means that every piece of content created should pass the test of addressing the pain points of the buyer, and not merely flaunt the bells and whistles of the product. Focusing on the customer would require personalizing and customizing the content to appeal to different types of buyer organizations and stakeholders within them. In fact, according to a 2019 study by Forrester Consulting, 85% of decision-makers agree that buyers are more likely to dismiss a seller in the first interaction if they are not provided with tailored information. The study also found that an overwhelming majority of decision-makers agree that the extent of personalization expected has grown in the last five years. Such tailoring of content, however, is only possible if vendors remain customer–centric in their content strategy.
2) Improperly mapping the buyer’s journey:
The buyer’s journey is a schematic representation of the different stages through which the buyers progress while making the purchase decision. As noted by Gartner, the buying process is a complex one, and it doesn’t unfold in any linear order 2. During the buying process, customers typically weave in and out of the different stages in the buyer’s journey, revisiting some stages more than once. A complicated buyer’s journey, such as this, raises the stakes for vendors in terms of knowing the prospect. It’s important that vendors can perceive where buyers are at any given moment in the sales conversations and tailor content accordingly. This requires in-depth research into buyer segments and buying behavior, without which gaps and disconnects are likely to emerge between buyers and sellers.
3) Failing to define ownership:
Content creation is often a widely distributed function within an organization, involving sales, marketing, product management, and even operations and legal teams. If the sales content strategy is to accommodate a collaborative approach that integrates perspectives and insights from such a wide range of stakeholders and teams within the vendor organization, all of these efforts must be properly coordinated. Hence, defining ownership of critical processes is vital, without which content efforts are likely to end up being random, poorly targeted, badly executed, and frustrating for all of the individuals and groups involved.
4) Getting overwhelmed with data and analytics:
It is, of course, vital to have a comprehensive picture of the sales process and the use of content within that process. However, this visibility has to be guided by the vision and objectives of the sales content strategy. The purpose served by content differs for each stage of the buyer’s journey. For instance, in the awareness stage, buyers need a high-level view of their problem and what the solution means to them, while, in the buying stage, they need help in evaluating the options available to them. Each of these objectives would require a different set of metrics to be met. Without a clear definition of the core metrics, it would be easy to get lost in all of the bells and whistles offered by a sales enablement platform and to end up producing masses of data that provide no actionable insights.
5) Not aligning messaging across content, training and sales:
Sales content is leveraged within the larger sales process. This means that for content to be effective, the messaging of the content provided by sellers in their interactions with customers needs to match the messaging of the internal-facing content that educates the sales reps. Failing to align the messaging across sales training and the sales process, therefore, will lead to chaotic and mixed messaging that detracts from the sales conversation.
6) Not planning for an omnichannel experience:
According to a study by Forrester 3, vendors failing to meet the buyers in channels where they want and need them will lead to lower buyer satisfaction (56% of sellers agree with this premise), will make it more difficult to attract new buyers (56% of sellers agree with this premise), and will lead to lower buyer loyalty and buyers choosing to shop with competitors (50% of sellers agree with this premise). Therefore, building an omnichannel experience is a vital requirement of the B2B sales process. But there’s an added expectation from the buyers here – they want their experience to be the same across all touchpoints and channels. This means that the content strategy also has to build in the necessary uniformity and consistency in messaging across every channel.
7) Not investing for the long-term:
Building a coherent content strategy cannot be a one-time affair for providing quick and easy results. Instead, it is a long-term iterative process built on a platform of experimentation and data-driven refinement. This implies that companies must be ready to invest the time and effort needed to sustain this process, without which the results are likely to be sub-optimal.
Today, buyers are inundated with content, thanks to the coming of digital. It stands to reason, therefore, that they have less time to spend on each piece of content. To engage buyers, organizations need to create content that is relevant and meaningful to them at different stages in the sales process. A sound and robust content strategy would go a long way in ensuring this. However, organizations need to steer clear of the many pitfalls that inevitably come with it.
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